Nov 12, 2009 9:21 AM by Associated Press

New jobless claims last week: 502,000

The Labor Department says first-time claims were a seasonally adjusted 502,000, from an upwardly revised 514,000 the previous week. That's the fewest claims since the week ending Jan. 3, and below economists' estimates.

The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, dropped to 519,750, the lowest in almost a year. Economists closely watch initial claims as a gauge of the pace of layoffs. But claims can also provide a signal about the willingness of companies to hire, because laid-off workers able to find jobs are less likely to request benefits.

The number of people continuing to claim benefits dropped by 139,000 to 5.6 million, also below analysts' estimates.


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